Amid speculation of a snap poll triggered by the political fallout from the controversial shutdown of ERT state broadcaster, Greece’s leftist opposition leader Alexis Tsipras was set to deliver a speech in Syntagma square in Athens on Monday at 8 p.m.
SYRIZA deputies on Monday said the decision last Tuesday by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras – which has prompted reactions from employees, workers and opposition parties – was in violation of Greek and international legislation. On Sunday, the party said that the premier’s move marked “the climax of his authoritarian policy.”
PAME, the Communist-affiliated union, has also planned a protest rally near ERT’s headquarters in Aghia Paraskevi, northeastern Athens, where thousands have been protesting since the network’s closure as dismissed ERT employees and other activists continue with a pirate broadcast that is carried over the internet and re-transmitted via satellite by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
Meanwhile, the symbol of the New Hellenic Radio Internet and Television (NERIT), the name of the organization that is to replace the defunct state broadcaster, appeared on television screens on Monday over multi-colored stripes prompting speculation that Samaras planned to address the nation ahead of a critical scheduled meeting with his coalition partners at 7.30 p.m. that would be aired on the new channel.
ERT’s closure has deepened the fractures in Greece’s power-sharing government. The spat intensified over the weekend, fueling speculation about possible early elections. Samaras, who is also the leader of conservative New Democracy, insisted in a speech that he was not pushing for snap polls, but reforms, and suggested that his coalition partners were trying to obstruct him. PASOK and Democratic Left reacted angrily, both accusing Samaras of acting unilaterally and arrogantly and reminding him that the coalition is composed of three parties.
The junior partners have so far turned down a compromise on the ERT dispute extended by Samaras involving rehiring a smaller number of staff to resume news broadcasts. They appeared unwilling to shift on this stance while Samaras too seemed unbending in his insistence that ERT remain closed and that any discussion focus on the composure of a new leaner state broadcaster purged of graft.
In an interview with Real News on Sunday, PASOK chief Evangalos Venizelos said his socialist party did not intend to trigger an early election. “But whoever thinks PASOK is afraid of elections is making a grave political mistake,” he said. An opinion poll published on Friday put the once-dominant socialists at 6.5 percent. New Democracy was leading SYRIZA by 2 percent according to the same poll conducted by Public Issue.
Underlining the crucial nature of Monday’s talks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly telephoned Samaras on Sunday to hail his government’s efforts on reforms, which have been linked to the ongoing release of rescue loans by foreign creditors.